August 2, 2013
Draft law targets meth outbreak
County, police crafting measures to limit sale of drug’s ingredients
Local police, county legislators and members of the District Attorney’s Office met Tuesday to discuss developing a new local law aimed at curbing the rising manufacture of methamphetamine in Cortland County.
The law would mirror a federal law that limits the amount of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine base — which can be used as a main ingredient to make meth — a person can buy to only 3.6 grams a day or 9 grams in 30 days, said Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville), chairman of the county Legislature’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
“You need Sudafed to make meth, so if you can cut down on the Sudafed, hopefully that would ease the meth problem,” said city police Lt. Rick Troyer, who also attended the meeting with city Police Chief F. Michael Catalano, Cortland County Undersheriff Herb Barnhart, Cortland County District Attorney Mark Suben, Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski, Paralegal Jennifer Buggs and county Legislator Richard Bushnell (D-5th Ward).
Local law enforcement agencies have seen a 250 percent increase in the number of cases involving methamphetamine in Cortland County since last year.
“It’s just out of control in the county and we’re just trying to curb it,” Whitney said.
The advantage of a local law is that local law enforcement will be able to respond without having to refer cases to federal agents.
“Sudafed is regulated federally but that regulation is difficult to enforce on a local level, so we’re looking at a more local level-type charges,” Catalano said.
Sgt. Troy Boice, of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department and a member of the Cortland County Drug Task Force, was not able to attend the meeting, but said Wednesday he advised the group that a local law targeting drugs used to make meth was needed.
Boice said he has been requesting local legislation that mirrors federal law for about a year.
“I’ve been pushing for it for quite some time,” said Boice. “I think it’s finally going to come to fruition.”
A state bill that would limit the sale of medications containing meth precursors to the same level as the federal law has been bogged down in the Assembly after being approved in the Senate.
Local officials also discussed adding a provision in the potential law that would allow officers to arrest someone who has a certain amount of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine base in their possession, Whitney said.
There was no discussion about what amount of the drugs would be considered illegal, Troyer said.
There was also no discussion at the meeting about a provision to address “smurfing for pills” — or someone agreeing to buy the drugs used to make meth for a meth cook at a profit, Whitney and Troyer said.
“Smurfing for pills” allows meth manufacturers to avoid breaking the federal drug limits.
“If we could get a local law on that (smurfing), that would be huge because there’s a lot of these people out there,” Boice said in July.
Police diligently try to enforce laws even if criminals find ways to circumvent them, Catalano said.
“There could always be ways around certain things, but it doesn’t mean you give up and not enforce what you can enforce,” he said.
Officials described the meeting as productive.
“This is very preliminary,” Catalano said. “We have a little ways to go.”
Whitney noted that the county attorney would have to review any law drafted by the District Attorney’s Office.
A proposed law would also have to be introduced to the Cortland County Legislature and submitted to a public hearing.
“It’s my goal, and it’s our goal, to have this passed in the September legislative session,” Whitney said.
“We’re going to work as quickly as possible,” said Suben, who declined to discuss the meeting, but noted that the group had an “agenda” moving forward. “It’s an urgent need.”
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